We can discern nothing about this work's provenance, but we always say, "when in doubt, publish it in serialized form." And so, for your pleasure, here begins The Sad Tale of Penny Farthing, broken into five parts. Look for part the second this time next week.
(The opening note to this part made an inscrutable reference to some person named Tristram Shandy. Remind us to Google him later.)
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Penny Farthing is not my given name. That is, at no point did my parents hear the words “congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Farthing, it’s a girl!” and then immediately set about trying to make my life miserable. I will concede that “Penelope” does appear somewhere on my birth certificate, but must confess that I went through primary school being called something else entirely. When I embarked on this profession, I felt that having a nom de guerre might prove to be profitable, and until my present misfortunes, I’ve had no cause to regret my choice of appellation. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The first time I heard a slur against my name of choice - I should here remark that, throughout this account, when I refer to my name, I mean my name of choice. My given name won’t ever come up in this chronicle. You’re never going to hear it, so don’t waste these pages in anticipation; it’s not going to happen. There, now I’ve spoiled the ending. Suffice to say, my given name is so appallingly bland and inoffensive that I was never once teased over it. No, no. My childhood trauma instead came in the form of harangues pertaining to my appearance; I was short, slight, knock-kneed, buck-toothed, spectacled, and bespeckled. Obvious improvements have been made since that time. I’d prefer not to dwell on past tragedies, as we have present ones in abundance to contend with. At any rate, the first time I hear a slur against my name, I was sitting at the bar in Eli Whitney’s, sipping a Cotton Gin.
The Cotton Gin is served in a highball glass, tastes curiously of fresh laundry, and fluoresces under black lights, which has given rise to the persistent but inaccurate rumor that it contains “essence of Eli,” if you catch my drift. Whenever you ask Eli what goes into one, the only thing he’ll tell you is: “gin, mostly.” This is entirely true. You can taste the juniper distinctly. The trouble is, few of Eli’s patrons have developed the kind of refined palate that allows one to appreciate the differences in the bouquet of a fine gin and the generic sharpness of any neutral grain spirit. Perhaps it is this lack of refinement in Eli’s patrons - and my too-vocal protests against them - that landed me in such trouble to begin with.